Abraham and Freedom – John 8

The first book of the New Testament, Matthew, begins like this:

1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.  2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers.  Matthew 1:1-2 ESV

Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are referred to as the Fathers of the Faith, or the Patriarchs.  Jesus referred to them often, and his disciples and the crowds He spoke to were well acquainted with their importance to the origins of the family of God. 

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus said:

11 I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.  Matthew 8:11 ESV

Abraham in particular gets a lot of discussion time throughout the New Testament.  Jesus refers to him on multiple occasions, as does Paul in his letters to the churches.  The writer of Hebrews includes him in the “Faith Hall of Fame”, in Chapter 11.  Abraham was clearly a person of great importance throughout the word of God, yet many who are new to the Bible are not quite sure who he was or why he is so important.

Abraham is important because he was the first person to be called out to begin a new family of faith in God. His lineage would include the regal line of Jesus Christ, the Coming One, who will save believers throughout the world from their sin. 

By his faith, Abraham is the father of all believers in God.  If you are a Jewish worshiper, you may have a blood connection to him, but the rest of us are spiritually connected to Abraham by our faith in God. In the New Testament books of Romans and Galatians, the apostle Paul writes that both Jew and Gentile believers in Christ are joined as one in faith, after the Man of Faith, Abraham. 

But not all had this faith. Jesus had many frank discussions with the religious leaders of His day who opposed Him and sought to kill Him because he “claimed” to be God – they simply did not have it in their hearts to believe Him. One of the confrontations between Him and these leaders centered around Abraham:

31 Jesus said… “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”  34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you.  John 8:31-37 ESV

Jesus, himself a descendant of Abraham in the line of Judah, proclaimed that the power of truth and freedom lies within Him and His word.  His word becomes alive within us and, through power of the Holy Spirit, will not return void.  He will bring liberty.

Our practice of sin may lead us into any of several forms of addiction – destructive habits which control us and rob us of our independence and joy in life.  Once entrenched in them, we find ourselves unable to throw off their bonds, yet often remain in denial about our struggles. When we come to our senses, we reach out to a “power greater than ourselves” to break the chains that have a grip on our mind, body and spirit.  Jesus tells us that He is the True Higher Power, and that this power comes through Him and His word, the source of complete truth and freedom.

Jesus’ opponents were angered by his statements about Abraham:

53 Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets who died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” 54 Jesus answered… 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” 57 So (they) said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?”  58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” 59 So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.  John 8:53-54, 56-57 ESV

Jesus revealed not only a personal relationship with Abraham, who had lived many centuries before, but stated that He existed long before Abraham lived.  Furthermore, Jesus used the expression “I am,” which his audience knew was the name God used when revealing Himself to Moses from the burning bush in the desert.  In doing so, Jesus was referring to himself as God.  Upon hearing this, those who rejected Him were enraged by His statements, and sought to stone him to death.

Later, these same religious leaders would turn Jesus over to the Romans to be crucified. But His voluntary, sacrificial death was an essential part of God’s eternal plan of salvation for a sinful world, established long ago and foreshadowed through the writings of the prophets.  In His sacrifice, Jesus removed the barriers between a holy God and sinful believers. He also gave them the power to live an unshackled life.

The blood of bulls and goats in the Old Testament Jewish ritual sacrifices were important expressions of obedience and faith, but could never fully atone for the sins of mankind, which separate us from God.  Only the sacrifice of the sinless Jesus Christ could fulfill the requirement of holiness needed to remove our separation from God, and present us with a holiness through faith that allows His Holy Spirit to live within us, the temple of God. 

As we turn to God for forgiveness, the Holy Spirit cleanses us from all of our sins and regenerates within us a life of purity and joy – an eternal gift of His grace made possible by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the washing of the word of God.

Reflection

What areas of sin do you struggle with the most?  Despite our deepest yearnings and best efforts, we all struggle at times to obey, which strains our relationship with God.  God loves us deeply, even when He disapproves of our actions, and will always forgive us when we confess our sins to Him and seek to turn away from our selfish behaviors.  The Lord does not condemn us, but instead helps us turn back to Him and to become a stronger and more fruitful believer.

What if we have an addiction?  We can prayerfully seek out a safe recovery group, a trusted friend, an understanding clergy or a qualified professional to help guide us towards God’s path of freedom for us.  Jesus often works through men and women of faith to help us experience victory in our lives. If we suffer from anxiety, depression, grief, or some other overwhelming condition, we can reach out for help in these areas, as well.

Lord, thank You for your great love for us. I come to You for the forgiveness of my sins, which I acknowledge to You. I believe that they have been atoned for by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Show me the way to true freedom from my bad habits, addictions, anxieties, depression or grief. Show us Your path to freedom so that we may be free indeed!

In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

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